Ludwig Pioneer Snare drum

The Ludwig Pioneer snare drum first appeared in the 1960 Ludwig catalogue, marketed as a lower priced student drum.  It soon became a market leader in the lower price range, but today is valued as a great drum both live and in the studio.

The drum was a 3 ply shell with reinforcement rings. It featured 6 rather than 8 lugs self-aligning lugs and triple flange hoops. Originally the drum featured a ‘large Pioneer’ throw, available in depths of 5.5 and 6.5” and finishes of Mahogany, Lacquer (duco) or Pearl.

Ludwig pioneer 1960 catalogue

By 1964, the catalogue added that the interiors of these drums were finished with Ludwigs exclusive ‘Reza Cote’ (white) adding that “this new Acousti-perfect shell design provides superior tone and response found in more expensive models”.  The snare throw had been updated to the P83, the drum also featuring the classic ‘baseball bat’ tone control / muffler.

Ludwig pioneer 64 catalogue

The earlier drums featured nickel over brass lugs, hoops and other hardware and no tone control dampener / muffler. At some point mid 1960’s the hardware changed to chrome. We have a drum in the shop as I write, however, with Nickel hardware which is date stamped 1960 inside the shell. The white ‘reza-cote’ interior is a little rougher that the later drums, it has an older style dampener fitted (factory) and features a p83 snare throw. So as I always say, there are always drums out there that are original but don’t match the pictures and descriptions in the catalogues! These drums were built to be played, mainly by students, in the 1960’s; it wasn’t considered that 60 years later we’d be discussing the colours of the dampener felts and whether a snare throw matches the date on the shell interior!

 

The drum stayed in production into the 1970’s, with features following the same pattern as other drums – updated lugs, snare throw (p83 to p85), badges etc. It’s usually the 1960’s drums that pop up on the UK market, however, and they are becoming very popular among players. I’m noticing more that 6 lug drums that were looked down upon in their time as being budget student drums, are actually becoming more sought after for their tonal qualities.

The tone of these drums are nice and warm, giving that typical vintage Ludwig vibe but with a brighter response than 8 lug models such as the jazz festival. An open sound if you like with great response when tuned high; tuned down with the snares buzzing a bit and your favourite damping and you get that lovely fat but crisp vintage snare sound.

View the drum we have in the shop here

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Gretsch 4160 Snare drum

This snare drum was introduced around 1961; The earliest models of these drums had a smooth shell with no decorative central markings. The drums from the early 60’s to 1967, featured the micro-sensitive throw off, to be replaced with the Lightening throw. From the early 70’s the ‘fishtail’ butt plate began to appear and the drum was offered with or without the tone control dampener.

The drum featured today is a late 60’s 4160 with the knurled centre markings. This drum has a 14 x 5” Seamless spun brass shell, chrome plated and highly polished. Fitted with a Round Badge but the lightening throw off dates it somewhere between 67 and 71. The drum features 8 single lugs and solid die cast counter hoops with a tone control dampener fitted.

That Great Gretsch Sound snare image.jpg

The 1966 catalogue describes the drum as this;

“The Gretsch metal snare drum sounds better than any you’ve ever heard. Its got the clean crisp modern sound that really stands out. An eye catching beauty with highly polished chrome plating, it has Wide 42 power snares to give your drumming that extra power professionals demand. No wonder you look better, feel better, sound better with Gretsch.”

All parts on this drum are original and in excellent condition, no dents to the shell just a few surface scratches; there is no paper badge in this drum. A nice design feature is the drum key holder, which secures the original key in the badge (see photos).

These snare drums are fairly rare in the UK,  generally the 4160 snares seen on these shores feature the later badge with or without the dampener.

Fitted with Remo Ambassador heads top and bottom, this drum sounds lovely. A lot more open and lively than a Ludwig to my ears, suitable for all styles; although damped a little with a gel or wallet and tuned down low, you get a nice fat backbeat snare whack out of it! The previous owner fitted 32 strand Puresound Custom wires to the drum, as close to the original 42 ‘power snares’ that would have been fitted as standard.Gretsch 42 strand wires image

Many big names have played Gretsch through the decades, the drums certainly holding their own sound that players either love and play Gretsch almost exclusively, or have a preference for other brands. This drum suits all styles of music, with a sensitivity that would suit a jazz leaning.

 

This drum is currently available at our shop and on the website.

Slingerland Radio King snare drum – a brief history

Ask many drummers what the ultimate snare drum is, the Holy Grail, the ‘must have’, and you’ll hear the words Radio King. This snare drum has been a best seller since it was introduced and remains highly popular among players and collectors worldwide.

radio_king_banner

I’ll attempt to give a quick history of the drum as well as outline its main features. This snare drum was in production over 4 decades, so as you can imagine there are too many models to discuss here, but hopefully this article will serve as an introduction and you can go and explore a little more.

The Radio King first appeared in the 1936 Slingerland catalogue alongside an announcement that Gene Krupa was their new endorsee. It was a solid shell snare drum, which many believe to be the ultimate when it comes to sound and playability (most modern drums are ply, with the exception of a few custom companies).

The earliest models featured streamlined lugs without inserts, the rods tensioning directly into the lugs, and brass hoops engraved with ‘Slingerland Radio King’. Offered as a metal or wood shell, it is the wood shell drums that are hailed as a timeless classic. By 1938 the lugs had inserts (nicknamed ‘cigar lugs’) and the Gene Krupa model was Slingerland’s bestselling snare drum.

Slingerland1936 catalogue gene krupa.jpg

The solid maple shell featured reinforcement hoops and was fitted with nickel plated hardware, a three point strainer and extended brackets at both strainer and butt end, which the snare wire end plates themselves screwed directly into. All drums were fitted with a two pad muffler, with each pad washer stamped ‘Slingerland, Chicago ILL’.  The felt colour was yellow, red or green. Around 1942 felt pad washers were eliminated and the felt colour became grey. The size of knurled adjustment knob became slightly larger too.

During 1940-42 The Super Radio King was introduced with ‘super lugs’ (referred to as ‘small beavertail’) replacing the cigar shaped lugs and the ‘super strainer’ was introduced (referred to as the clamshell strainer). This strainer was more delicate than the three point, and many don’t like it for that reason, although it remained on drums up until the early 1960’s.

 

Around 1955 the Sound King hardware was introduced with a more modern look and Slingerland stick saver hoops (which curved inwards) were fitted as standard. Radio king remained stamped in hoops until around 1956 and both the three point and clam shell strainer were offered.

radio king blue glitter interior

In the early 1960’s solid shell snares became the artist model. By 1962 the clam shell throw was replaced by the zoomatic and between 1963 and 1966 the Radio King name reappeared on snares. By 1970 the artist model was 3 ply and the Radio King cob had been replaced by the Krupa sound king.

Artist models appeared over the years, such as the Ray McKinley model featuring a wooden hoop with pearl inlays and countersunk claws on the batter side, metal full flanged hoop snare side. The Buddy rich model featured a 3 point strainer and simple butt end and bottom hoop.Slingerland1939 cat

I’ve probably missed loads of information out, but you can read all this in more detail on the web.

Although most companies made solid shell drums in the 20’s and 30’s, most turned to plywood. Slingerland claimed in the 1950’s that they were the only company still manufacturing solid shell snare drums. “Each solid snare shell is hand turned for exact sizing to a perfect circle. It is the strongest and most durable shell made. Makes for easier playing, greater sensitivity of snares and easily controlled power and volume”.

Over the years, the Radio King Snare drum was offered in depths of 5,5.5,6,7 and 8. The Shell interiors are usually pretty rough, and separation/ splits in the reinforcement hoop are common. But these drums sound incredible. You can take a battered Radio King that cosmetically looks well past its time, place it on a snare stand and the magic happens. Most name players have one in their collection for studio work, and these drums provide the backbeat for many classic records in every genre.

In his book on Slingerland drums, Rob Cook states that collectors tend to refer to all solid shell Slingerland snare drums as Radio Kings and to not consider any drum a Radio King, unless it has a one piece as opposed to plied shell. What really distinguished the Radio King models from other Slingerland drums though, he states, were the Radio King Brackets, which drew the tension of the snare wires outward rather than upward. Rob says that the presence of these support brackets on both the strainer and butt plate is a better way to identify a Radio King, as this was part of the basis for the patent.

Slingerland Radio King Restoration

We just completed the restoration of this lovely 1930’s Slingerland Radio King snare drum for a client. He bought this drum a couple years ago & had it shipped to the UK from the USA. He had the edges re-cut by a drum builder as the drum had some flat spots, and decided it was time to have it looking as good as it sounded.

When it arrived, I was surprised that most of the Nickel hardware was green; but not to worry, we stripped all the hardware off and started the task of cleaning it.

Care has to be taken when cleaning Nickel over brass hardware, as if you rub too hard the nickel comes off and you’re just left with the brass! On a drum this old (80 years!) the hardware isn’t going to polish up looking like new chrome, so the mission was to remove all the green and basically get the drum clean again! I actually love it when the hardware shows some of the brass coming through under the Nickel, which is what the result was with this drum (specifically on the hoops). The shell was cleaned and polished, edges lightly waxed and heads re-fitted. The drum arrived with a set of Canopus wires which were re-tied with Puresound snare cord in brown, that I always use.

I tuned the drum up with the Drum Dial and it sounded lovely straight off. I hope it’s owner is happy with the results. If you’ve got a snare that is looking or sounding a little tired, please contact us about our restoration services.

Paul Daniels

We’re sorry to hear of the passing of Paul Daniels. I along with many, many others grew up watching The Paul Daniels Magic Show on tv. Just over a year ago, whilst on the phone to a customer who had called the shop, I realised I was talking to the Paul Daniels! He’d landed on our website and needed some advice on some parts he was trying to acquire. I remember calling my wife saying “you’ll never believe who I’ve been on the phone to all morning…?!”

I spent a couple days emailing him and talking with him on the phone, we had some really in depth conversations about stuff and he even gave me some business advice (which I took on board). I asked him for a quote for the website, but never used it (along with all the other quotes I’ve had from happy customers); “Thank you so much for dealing with my unusual request re cymbal stands so promptly.  They were perfect for the job (even if I still can’t play the drums… 🙂 ….)

 

RIP Paul Daniels.